Major League Baseball has removed marijuana from its list of banned substances as a part of joint agreement between the league and the players' association Thursday.
Under the new agreement, marijuana will no longer be considered a "drug of abuse" and will be treated the same as alcohol. In addition, minor league players will no longer face suspension for marijuana use but, like major leaguers, will simply be referred to the treatment board.
According to a report by ESPN:
Until now, big league players who were referred to the treatment board and failed to comply with their treatment plan for use or possession of marijuana, hashish or synthetic THC had been subject to fines of up to $35,000 per violation. Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related issues, and players generally will be referred to mandatory evaluation and voluntary treatment.
Players' association executive director Tony Clark said that legalization of marijuana by several states influenced the move.
"It was a part of a larger conversation that was reflective of the attitudes changing in many parts of the country," Clark said.
The new drug policy steps up fight against opioids
Also, as a major part of the agreement, the MLB will begin testing players for opioids and cocaine during spring training in 2020.
The new approach will be treatment-based, as players who test positive for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine, and THC will referred to the newly-established treatment board. Only players who do not cooperate with their treatment plans will be subjected to disciplinary action.
The new policy follows on the heels of the tragic death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, 27, who was found dead in a Dallas area hotel on July 1 with a mix of alcohol and painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system.
"Players from our side of the equation recognize that there was an opportunity to take a leadership role here in this discussion," Clark said. "Players aren't immune to issues that affect all of us, and so the situation this year only heightened that, brought it even closer to home."
According to Reuters, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters Wednesday that Skaggs' death "was a motivating factor ... in addressing, in the context of our industry, what is really a societal problem in terms of opioids."
In 2016, opioid overdoses resulted in over 42,000 deaths — more than any previous year on record — and that number increased to 47,600 in 2018, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health study.